Composting is nature's process of recycling kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. By composting you can reduce your rubbish by at least 30% and that means less waste rotting in landfill.
Compost also improves your soil's condition and maintains moisture levels so it's good for the environment and provides you with free compost for your garden.
Purchase compost bins
If you're interested in purchasing compost bins, Redbridge council have teamed up with Get Composting to offer special rates on compost bins, water butts and a whole range of accessories. You can purchase a compost converter from as little as £19.98 (+£5.99 delivery) and a whole range of other discounted composting equipment (such as kitchen caddies, base plates etc.) Visit the Get Composting website for more information.
How to get started
Follow these easy steps to get your compost off to a great start:
1. Obtain your bin.
2. Place your bin in a sunny spot in your garden, preferably on soil but it will work on paving or gravel. Position your bin near to the house - you won't want to traipse down the end of the garden in the middle of winter.
3. Start adding a mix of 'greens' (vegetable and fruit peelings, cores, skins) and 'browns' (twigs, leaves, cardboard, paper, shredded paper) in equal measure to your bin. Take care not to compost cooked food, meat or fish.
4. Wait for a while and let the nature do the work. It takes between nine and twelve months for your compost to become ready for use. Keep on adding greens and browns to top up your compost in the meantime.
5. Once your compost has turned into a crumbly, dark material, resembling thick, moist soil and gives off an earthy, fresh aroma, you know it’s ready to be spread around your garden.
Benefits of home composting
1. It treats waste where it's created, eliminating emissions from waste collection transport and treatment.
2. In a landfill site, biodegradable waste rots without air (anaerobically) producing methane (twenty times stronger than carbon dioxide) and other greenhouse gasses. In a compost bin, material is not squashed and rots with air (aerobically) resulting in a different process producing only a negligible amount of carbon dioxide.
3. Producing compost at home is more sustainable - eliminating transport use to/from the factory to shop to home.
What can I compost?
Like any recipe you need the right mixture of ingredients to make it work.
Your compost bin needs a mixture of 'greens' and 'browns' to make good compost - about half and half.
|'Browns' you can compost||'Greens' you can compost||No-no's or things you cannot compost|
|Twigs||Grass trimmings||Any cooked food including fruit and vegetables|
|Leaves||Plant cuttings||Meat and fat|
|Cardboard||Fruit and vegetable peelings||Fish|
|Egg shells||Tea bags and tea leaves||Dairy such as cheese and milk|
|Straw and hay||Old flowers||Dog poo|
To compost at home all you need to do is get a compost bin, place it in your garden and throw in your garden waste and kitchen scraps. It will naturally break down and turn into compost which is an soil improver excellent for flower beds, vegetable patches and pot plants.
How does it turn into compost?
Worms, slugs, ants, beetles, bacteria and other little creatures find their way into your compost bin and break down the waste as they eat it, slowly turning it into compost.
How long does it take to turn into compost?
Your compost will be ready in about 6-9 months but this may be faster or slower depending on where you put your bin and the time of year. It will be quicker if it is in a sunny spot in the garden and slower in winter time when temperatures are colder. Don't forget if you are continually adding new things into the top it will only be ready low down so you will need to have a look from the bottom.
Will it attract rats and mice into my garden?
No. There is no reason a compost bin will attract rats or mice if you follow the rules about what you can and cannot compost, as shown the table above. Rats and mice will only be interested in your compost bin if there is meat and cooked foods in there, so keep those out and pests will stay away!
Can I compost if I have a patio?
Yes, you can place a compost bin on any surface. If it is on a patio it will take longer to get going than if it is on the grass or soil because it will take more time for the creatures to find their way in to the bin. This means it will work just as well but just take longer.
There are lots of flies in my compost bin, is it ok?
If there are a lot of flies and it looks slimy in your compost bin then you have put too many 'greens' in the bin and need more 'browns'. Add more 'browns' and give it a stir if possible and it will be fine. If you are adding lots of grass cuttings try and mix them up with shredded paper or scrunched up cardboard to create important air pockets.
It looks very dry in my compost bin, is it ok?
If it looks dry and like not much is going on in there then you have put too many 'browns' in your bin and need to add more 'greens'. Giving it some water will also help.
My compost bin smells and is wet and slimy inside?
You have not added the right mixture of waste. You need to add more 'brown' material to add air pockets and carbon to the mix.
Be careful with adding clumps of nitrogen rich matter at once as this will disturb the balance. For example, grass cuttings are high in nitrogen and if added in a clump may break down quickly and go slimy. To prevent this, gather your cuttings and mix with shredded paper and/or other browns and add to the bin together.
My compost looks all dry and nothing is happening?
You need to add more 'greens' to the mix like fruit and vegetable peelings.
I can't get my compost out of the door on the bin?
The best way to get your compost out is to lift off the entire bin and place it to one side. You will uncover a 'compost lasagne' consisting of a 'well done' bottom section, 'half done' middle and fresh layer on top. Simply fork off the top two layers to reveal your compost underneath.
Why can't I compost cooked food?
Technically, anything biodegradable can be composted but be wary of cooked food as it may attract pests.
I want to speed up my compost, what do you recommend?
Composting can be done in a laid back 'as and when' fashion as long as the right mix is present. However, to speed up the process the bin needs to be made hotter. To achieve this - 'turn' (fork about) regularly to increase airflow and bacteria growth and/or add and stir in nitrogen rich matter such as grass and stinging nettles or horse manure. Compost accelerator products are essentially liquid nitrogen, the same make up as male urine which has been traditionally used for this purpose.
What can I do with my compost?
Use as a potting compost (mix half with normal soil), spread as a mulch around trees, on a dormant winter bed or on a lawn. Dig into a bed in spring. Don't be put off composting if you have a small garden - you won't be producing piles of compost you can't deal with if you only have food waste to put in. Compost bins can easily go four years without needing to be emptied and some people do compost just as a waste prevention method, not for gardening purposes.